The Informer

This week’s headlines: a report from an electric vehicles taskforce says their widespread adoption could significantly improve the UK’s electricity network and boost renewables; new figures show green investment slumped last year; and a warning has been sounded over stagnating growth in the low-carbon economy.

  • EV revolution could be major boost to UK energy system

    The mass rollout of electric vehicles will be a major opportunity for the UK to improve its energy system and harness more renewable power but effective planning and co-ordination are crucial, according to a report.

    The joint industry-government EV Energy Taskforce said “as a matter of urgency” government and Ofgem need to facilitate the framework needed for the rollout of EVs and electricity network infrastructure needed at a local and national level.

    The report said the take-up of EVs could significantly improve electricity network efficiency, increase system resilience and limit the requirement to build costly new infrastructure to meet growing electricity demand.

    It made 21 recommendations, including the prioritisation of greater standardisation for charging points, the introduction of incentives for EV drivers to harness energy storage, and the creation of an independent body to promote smart charging.

    Philip New, Chief Executive of the Energy Systems Catapult and the Chair of the EV Energy Taskforce, said: “Ensuring that the mass roll-out of EVs delivers benefits for both drivers and the wider energy system requires actions from industry, government and the regulator, including creating the new markets and policies that can unlock EVs’ huge potential.”

    Fintan Slye, Director of National Grid Electricity System Operator, added: “Smart charging and vehicle-to-grid technology means we can use renewable energy more efficiently, charging when the sun shines or the wind blows and potentially discharging back to the grid at times of peak demand.”

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  • UK renewables investment slumps says BNEF

    Investment in the UK’s renewable energy industry plunged by 40% last year to $5.3 billion (£4.1 billion), its lowest level since 2007, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

    The UK’s poor performance contributed to Europe slipping behind the United States in terms of investment, with Germany down 30% to its lowest level since 2004.

    Global investment crept 1% higher to $282.2 billion (£216.6 billion) thanks to increased solar and wind investment in the US overcoming a downturn in China.

    A rare bright spot for the UK market was the £2.1 billion Neart na Gaoithe wind farm off the east coast of Scotland reaching financial close, helping global offshore wind investment to jump by 19% year-on-year to $29.9 billion (£22.9 billion).

    Tom Harries, Head of Wind Research at BNEF, added: “We expect the sector’s global momentum to continue in 2020, with the focus on gigawatt-scale projects in the British North Sea and the first commercial arrays off the US east coast.”

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  • Green economy figures ‘sober reading’

    The turnover of the UK’s green economy rose 4.7 per cent to hit £46.7bn in 2018 but concerns have been voiced over the pace of growth.

    Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the low-carbon sector accounted for just 1% of the UK’s economy in 2018, prompting concerns that green growth has “stagnated”.

    Gudrun Cartwright, Environment Director at Business in the Community and The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, warned: “Coming straight on the back of Sir David Attenborough’s climate change warning that ‘the moment of crisis has come’, this latest report on the green economy makes for sober reading.

    “Businesses must act decisively to eliminate waste, set net zero carbon targets, invest in supply chains, support customers and harness the power of employees to lead at every level, so that we can innovate at the speed and scale needed to repair and sustain our planet.”

    The ONS said investment in the green economy edged higher to £8.1 billion in 2018 thanks to deals in the offshore wind sector.

    The figures show the sector employs the equivalent of 224,800 full-time workers.

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  • Low-carbon stimulus needed to head off recession says report

    The New Economics Foundation (NEF) think tank has called for “the largest green stimulus in zero-carbon infrastructure that is feasibly possible” in response to a possible recession.

    It suggests investing between £30 billion and £50 billion in green projects over three years, with a third of the cash being pumped into the green economy within the first 12 months.

    Frank Van Lerven, Senior Economist at the NEF, said: “The nature of the UK’s response to a recession could prove the difference between whether progress towards crucial climate targets ultimately prove a failure or a success.”

    The NEF’s analysis of the UK Government’s response to the 2008 banking crisis found that if £10.5 billion had been invested in home insulation then domestic emissions would have been 30% lower in 2018.

    The cost of such a programme would have been outweighed by savings on household energy bills by 2013, it added.

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  • New coal mines in UK ‘incompatible’ with climate targets

    Plans for new coal mines are incompatible with UK climate ambitions and unnecessary, a new report has argued.

    The report from the Green Alliance comes as controversy over the proposed the Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven in Cumbria continues.

    Supporters of the colliery plans claim that it would be “carbon neutral” by replacing coal from other sources and would create 500 jobs.

    But the report said the plans are not compatible with UK climate targets and will hold back the development of low carbon steelmaking. Coal from the mine is intended for steelmaking, which would produce 8.4 million tonnes per year of CO2 per year, equivalent to the emissions from over a million households.

    The report outlines four ways the steel industry should be cutting carbon: using less steel; using recycled steel; improving the efficiency of steel production with conventional blast furnaces; and producing steel with new processes using renewable energy.

    The report says opening a new coal mine will hinder this strategy by ensuring the continued availability of cheap coal.

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